Taleggio – One of the Best “Value” Cheeses
Lately I’ve been on the hunt for “value cheeses” and the washed rind Taleggio from Italy is one of the best examples I can describe that fits my idea of a great value cheese. Taleggio is a washed rind cheese that can be found in every gourmet cheese market and in many supermarkets.
You’ll find it less expensive than some of its washed rind cousins but still packed with tons of great flavor and the unique aroma associated with washed rind cheeses. Some say “stinky”, I say delightful.Less expensive, but not cheap. I paid $16 per pound at a high-end cheese store but compared to Epoisses that sells for over $30 per pound.
Washed Rind Basics
“Washed rind” is a way to describe cheeses that have their exteriors washed with mildly salted water to help attract bacteria essential for developing the moist rinds with their distinctive reddish color and wonderful pungent smell.
There are high moisture content washed rind cheeses like Taleggio and Epoisse that get broken down by the bacteria with age and become creamier over time. When they are perfectly ripe, the soft interior will actually ooze but remember they also get “slinkier” with all that oozing.
Other washed rind cheeses that start with lower moisture content like Gruyère or Appenzeller actually become firmer and drier as they age.
Taleggio – The Short of It
Milk Type: pasteurized cow’s milk
Shape: Square measuring about 8 – 10 inches per side and 2 – 3 inches thick
Wheel Weight: 4 pounds
Rind: Soft, thin and rosy light-brown color, edible if you like
Paste: Soft and straw-yellow color near the rind, slightly firmer and white near the center
Taste: Sweet, fruity, tangy
Aroma: Unique, yeasty, pungent, stinky
Fat content: 48%
Aging Time: 25 to 50 days
A Little Taleggio History
There is town in Italy in the Lombardia area called Val Taleggio and that’s how Taleggio got its name. Production eventually spread out to other towns in the Po Valley.
It’s history goes way back. Some say the tenth or eleventh century but back then it was called “stracchino” way before it was called Taleggio.
Stracchino can be translated to mean tired or exhausted and relates to how the milk cows must have felt after the long journey from the mountain pastures to the plains where they were milked. From what I read, the milk after the journey was only used for cheese. The name stracchino was used for any “soft, square-shped cheeses” from the Lombardy region.
In 1955, the Taleggio cheese-makers received some protection by creating a controlling body to define the method for making this cheese.
In 1988 Taleggio was granted a Presidential Decree that put it in same status as Parmiggiano Reggiano and Gorgonzola. Then in 1996 it received even more protection when it obtained P.D.O. (Protected Designation of Origin) status.
How to Serve or Cook With Taleggio
I like to put a chunk of Taleggio on a cheese board with some of my other favorite cheeses but it’s also a great cheese to cook with. I’ve heard it makes a great grilled cheese sandwich and slices can also be used to top casserole dishes where it melts “into an appetizing cream.
It’s an excellent addition to risotto and polenta and can be chopped up and added to salads. Serve it with light reds or whites, especially wines from the Lombardy region.
This is one of my favorite cheeses and a great value for the quality of this cheese. Give it a try, I think you’ll enjoy it.